Does anyone really believe Gov. Bruce Rauner would have made his “crumbling prisons” remark if the Chicago’s public schoolchildren were primarily middle class and white?
The governor would have come up with some other negative depiction of Chicago Public Schools to argue the city doesn’t deserve funding.
Rauner’s unfortunate language about “crumbling prisons” suggests the children in Chicago Public Schools have done something to deserve a miserable fate.
Worse yet, Rauner’s comments weren’t just insulting to teachers, principals and public schoolchildren, his choice of words cut to the core of the education gap in this nation.
Unfortunately in Illinois — and in a lot of other states — “them that’s got” are the ones that get a first-class education in first-class school buildings.
The majority of working-class and low-income students struggle to compete in environments that are not conducive to learning.
The students most likely to be educated in Rauner’s “crumbling prisons” are black and Latino kids born to working poor and low-income parents.
But parents don’t send their kids to dilapidated school buildings because they don’t care. Many of these parents have limited choices.
Recently I heard from a single mother who was having a difficult time enrolling her son into one of the city’s elite magnet schools.
Although the mother was upset by the unwarranted scrutiny she had to endure, she was willing to do whatever it took to enroll her son in a “good” school.
Every year, hundreds of working-class families are turned away from the best public schools, schools that offer the kind of educational programs that foster learning.
Rich people play by different rules.
For instance, in 2008, Rauner’s own daughter was admitted to Walter Payton College Prep within days after he made a phone call to then-Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan.
A year and a half later, the Rauner Family Foundation gave $250,000 to the Payton Prep Initiative for Education.
Although this controversial issue came up during Rauner’s campaign for governor, it soon blew over.
I don’t blame Rauner for giving his daughter the best education his money could buy.
I do blame him, however, for expecting Chicago’s schoolchildren to make do.
The state of Illinois has refused to adequately fund Chicago Public Schools even though the correlation between our failed public education system and high incarceration rates are clear.
Frankly, no one should be talking about public schools not opening in the fall.
The fact that Rauner used demeaning language to argue the school district doesn’t deserve an additional $100 million in funding shows he has little empathy for the plight of working and lower-income Illinoisans.
I’m also disappointed that the Rev. James T. Meeks, whom I respect as an education advocate, apparently has had little input on this issue.
Meeks did not return my calls Wednesday about the education funding debate.
Black leaders like Meeks took a lot of heat for backing Rauner. They are now supposed to be in positions of influence in this Republican administration.
After all, their rallying cry against Democrats was that the party was taking the black vote for granted.
Unlike others outraged over the governor’s callous remarks about Chicago Public Schools, I’m actually glad he put it out in the open.
Now these African-American leaders get a chance to show the rest of us how their change of allegiance is making a difference.